UPDATE: Jimmy McMillan, early today, announced he was calling off the strike in light of a judge’s decision on Tuesday to keep the rent freeze in place.
By Sabina Mollot
Jimmy “The Rent is Too Damn High” McMillan, now a Republican City Council candidate, is calling on the tenants of New York City to join him in a rent strike this October.
McMillan, an East Village resident who’s been in and out of court with his own landlord for years, said the plan is inspired by what he’s blasting as conflicting interests in the New York City Housing Court.
“The attorneys that sit on a committee that appoint New York City Housing Court (judges), stand before that same judge against the tenant representing the landlord,” he stated in a press release.
The 70-year-old Vietnam vet also believes this setup has impacted his own case.
According to current information on the New York Courts website, the advisory committee that helps appoint judges to the Housing Part of the Civil Court includes three representatives of the real estate industry, including the chair of the NYC Housing Authority, three members from tenants’ organizations, two members representing civic groups, two bar association members, two public members, one mayoral appointee and the commissioner of the state housing agency, Housing and Community Renewal.
McMillan’s plan to strike, meanwhile, is also aimed at raising awareness of his campaign platform — affordability. His goal is to see rents slashed across the board.
“The way out of this is a massive rent reduction,” he said. “I do not want to see a woman walking around the supermarket who can’t afford meat and vegetables. I’m watching people gain weight because they’re not eating properly. I’m watching restaurants with empty chairs. People can’t afford it. You see a restaurant that’s empty the whole week, how do people get paid? How do you pay your rent for the store? You can (only) squeeze a dollar so far.
“In Peter Cooper, a two-bedroom costs $9,000 a month. What the hell is going on? I didn’t serve my country to come back to this.”
(Note: It may be that McMillan was referring to maximum legal rent for the technically rent-stabilized complex. A two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment currently being marketed in Peter Cooper is listed with a rent of $5,900. It’s also worth noting that City Council members can’t vote to change the rent regulations, as that’s done in Albany, but McMillan has said previously that if elected he would push state legislators to act.)
McMillan also brought up another concern, which is that he said he’s heard from evicted tenants who haven’t been paid the interest that accrued from their security deposits.
“Thousands of tenants are being evicted and landlords owe them money,” he said.
He’s hoping support for the rent strike will come from labor unions and others who pushed for a minimum wage increase as well as tenant associations around the city. He said he planned the strike for October, because while he had wanted to raise awareness around rent prior to the primary in September, he became concerned that getting out the message by then might prove too difficult because of Labor Day. So instead, he opted for before the general election.
On the subject of upcoming elections, when asked how his own campaign to run for the City Council seat being vacated by Rosie Mendez was going, McMillan said he hasn’t really had the opportunity to speak with voters much yet due to the ongoing cold weather. But he does get the word out at the occasional rally. Last weekend, he attended a pro-Trump event.
“People say I saw you on TV. You’re hilarious,” he said.